It’s my hope that you readers will all be educated at least a bit on the UFC when I’m done this series. And since my last article got two whole “Likes” on Facebook, I think it’s safe to say I’m on the right track.
Let’s continue with the Light-Heavyweights. From 186-205 lbs, the LHWs belong to the marquee division of the UFC. Most of its early well-known champions came from this weight class, from Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Rampage Jackson to today where we have the monstrosity known only as Jon “Bones” Jones, 205 features a lot of big names that promote the brand.
Of note is that historically, the title belt has been something of a hot potato. There have been 10 different champions, with many only holding the belt for one bout. And then there was Jones. But we’ll get to him in a minute.
The Light Heavyweights can do it all. There’s plenty of size and mass for exciting finishing power, they can move as well as stay there and bang, they’re not so massive that wrestling/grappling becomes a boring proposition but they have a lot more power than those little men who bounce around like they live on the moon or something.
Let’s take a look at the landscape of the UFC’s Light-Heavyweight Division.
The Champ: Jon “Bones” Jones (16-1)
Holy shit Jon Jones is a terrifying being in the cage. He’s 24 years old, and has already dominated the best there are, or for that matter who have ever been, at 205 (with one exception). His only loss was to a technical disqualification in a fight he was otherwise dominating in a frightening brutality. I don’t know that he’s lost a round in recent memory. He’s finished—FINISHED—top competition like Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. He makes it look easy. Even in his last title defense against Rashad Evans, he wasn’t able to put Evans away but a blind man could tell you he dominated the fight. Oh, and did I mention he’s only 24? And that most people in this sport become champs in their late 20s/early 30s? And that we see him getting better? Lord help whoever shoots for the belt in that division.
#1 Contender: Dan “Hendo” Henderson (29-8)
If Dan Henderson manages to beat Jon Jones, I might call him the best fighter ever. But setting aside that matchup, Hendo is 41 years young, is going strong, and has fought—and beat—many of the best fighters in the world across 3 divisions (Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, and Middleweight). His fight with Shogun Rua is possibly the best fight ever in the UFC, and his knockouts of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko and Michael Bisping were career defining and highlight reel worthy. His right hook—dubbed the “H Bomb”—is capable of knocking out pretty much anything. That old dog can most definitely still hunt.
In the mix:
Rashad Evans (17-2)
Evans has lost only twice in his career. Twice. That’s it. He’s fought 6 former champions (with both losses coming from them). The caliber of his opposition is top-notch, and he keeps showing that he’s game. His wrestling is stifling and aggressive, he’s got knockout power, and he won’t get tired. If you can beat him, you are LEGIT. But let’s be real, you probably won’t. If Jones has the belt for a long time, Evans does have another shot at him, but it probably won’t come for a while given the rather one-sided nature of the bout. But everyone else in the division would do well to watch out, especially his next opponent.
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (17-3)
He’s a karate guy, which is very interesting to watch. He’s labeled “elusive” due to his uncanny ability to dart in, hit, and move away before receiving return fire. He ended legendary Randy Couture’s career (and knocked out a tooth on camera!) via nasty front kick to the nugget. He’s had a rough go of it lately, with losses to Shogun, Rampage Jackson, and Jon Jones but he has an exciting matchup with Ryan Bader soon. The Karate Kid is on the comeback trail!
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (20-6)
Shogun is a goddamn warrior. He’s basically a younger Dan Henderson. He’s been the Pride Champ. He’s been the UFC Champ. His resume is insane. Babalu. Rampage. Little Nog. Overeem (twice). Griffin (twice). Liddell. Machida. And that’s his wins! Although he did get annihilated against Jones (absolutely savage beating), his comeback victory against Forrest Griffin was equally savage, and his fight against Dan Henderson was legendary (I know I said just up there to watch it, but seriously. Go watch it. NOW!) His next fight against Brandon Vera should let us see what Shogun’s still got in his arsenal, and I’m expecting an impressive performance.
Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
The big Swede here is a very hot prospect. Although finished by Phil Davis, he has improved by leaps and bounds, and seems like he is the next fast riser through the ranks of 205. He seems to have great skills all around, and although he does have a little bit of seasoning to go, the UFC is bringing him along nicely. His last victory over gatekeeper (but high level gatekeeper) Thiago Silva is a good indicator that he belongs at the higher echelons of the Light Heavyweights. Now let’s see how much higher he can go.
First of all, Phil Davis looks like a comic book character. And I don’t mean that in an insulting way at all. I mean the man simply looks like he has muscles that were drawn on because it would be otherwise impossible to obtain them. But, he doesn’t really look like a comic book character on steroids. It’s hard to elaborate here. My point is, the dude is remarkably sculpted and doesn’t look like he injects stuff on a regular basis. Mr. Davis’ wrestling skills are unreal, having been an NCAA champion at Penn State. He needs to work on his striking, and using that striking to set up takedowns in order to really dominate that higher level of competition (as we saw in his loss against Rashad Evans). Despite all that, once Davis figures out how to develop that boxing a little bit, I imagine him being a bigger, more submission-hungry version of Josh Koscheck, and he’s been a terror at Welterweight for a long time.
Ryan “Darth” Bader (14-2)
Ha! Get it! Darth Bader! It’s kind of like Darth Vader, but his name is Bader. It’s a good thing he went with “Darth” and not “Master.” (Very funny) Jokes aside, Bader is a very powerful wrestler (you know because he has absolutely 0 neck) with a devastating overhand right. That’s a great combination for a winner in the UFC, having the ability to control the opponent on the ground but also possessing the ability to finish the fight outside the comfort zone. He got set back a bit after being one of Jon Jones’ victims and then a surprising finish by Tito Ortiz, but he’s rebounded nicely with wins over Jason Brilz and Rampage Jackson. He is a solid part of the next group of younger, dangerous light heavyweights and his next fight against Lyoto Machida should be awesome.
Next up: The Middleweights (and just in time for UFC 148 next week!).